You shouldn’t be losing out on potential revenue to online counterfeiters.
It’s not just about protecting your brand from some a few sales of some dodgy imitations on Canal Street in New York — online fakes are sold in far greater numbers, doing far more to damage your reputation and hurt your bottom line.
In the latest Owning the Buy Box, Charlie Abrahams, industry veteran and commentator in the brand-protection space, joins the show to discuss how brand protection has evolved to become a key driver of revenue, not just a concern for the legal team.
Charlie shares his insights on:
- Understanding consumer behavior as the basis for your brand-protection strategy
- Why risk mitigation matters, but revenue growth matters more
- Specific brand-protection pain areas companies should address
Counterfeits & consumer behavior
Counterfeiting and piracy have been around since humans first began making and distributing goods — as soon as there was art, there were forgeries; as soon as there was shipping, there were pirates.
But in recent years, this age-old human practice has evolved. So rapidly, in fact, that the business conversations centering on counterfeiting had trouble keeping pace.
Charlie, now a grizzled veteran in the brand-protection space, remembers those conversations with confused brands — little more than a decade ago — all too well.
Working with luxury brands in the late aughts, he recalls many a counterfeiting conversation where brand leaders were more concerned with the low-volume street hawkers peddling cheap knockoffs than the internet. “Why would we care about the internet?” Charlie recalls hearing from incredulous leaders (on more than one occasion).
They’d reassure Charlie that, for their consumers, the experience of shopping in person was as much of a draw as the goods themselves. But eventually, they’d stumble on a site selling (what was purported to be) their wares — and sharing real estate in the valuable top-5 of a Google search, no less.
Those leaders have since changed their tunes
Those most derisive of the internet’s capabilities to threaten their brand were understandably shocked to see the volume these sites were getting. It was a far cry from street peddlers they used to worry most about.
But that’s not the only difference between the digital dupers and their counterparts in the real world.
When consumers select a $20 “Rolex” from a street vendor, none of them believe they are getting the real article at a 99.99% discount. Online, it’s a little hazier.
Consumers finding a $500 TV for $400 l may understandably struggle to engage their skepticism circuits. Instead, it’s just a great deal.
The online counterfeiters are so insidious — and so damaging to the brands they imitate — because they are believable. And at scale.
Some brands, Charlie says, have even told him that nearly half of the returns they process aren’t even their product.
It’s an escalation in the arms race between the genuine article and the knock-off. Brands need to understand this evolution for what it really is: a threat to their bottom line.
Risk & your bottom line
Brands may not be so incredulous about the threats posed to them in the digital realm these days, but many of them frame the problem in an unhelpful way. Namely, by tying it to risk over revenue.
Sure, risk mitigation is a key benefit of brand protection — of course it’s important to protect your organization from legal liability. But this framing inaccurately characterizes brand protection as a cost center.
In reality, brand protection is a revenue function.
If this seems a bit of a stretch, it would be illustrative to take a look at how Adobe’s brand-protection efforts affected their bottom line. It’s hard to argue with the results.
A while back, the leadership at Adobe realized that for every legitimate copy of their products sold, there were 15 times as many unauthorized copies being used. In a Google search, they may have won the top spot — but right below them on the page were the scammers stealing their business and harming their reputation.
So they got to work.
The big realization was that converting some portion of those 15 unauthorized users would have as much impact on their revenue as going out and getting new customers. The arithmetic is simple.
Once they managed to start combatting the worst offenders, their profitability clearly went up. They proved that brand reputation wasn’t a cost center or a compliance concern; it was a boon to the bottom line.
Once you understand that, you can start taking measures reap the same rewards,
Steps to protect your brand
Countering the counterfeiters is a huge benefit for brands big and small. But if you haven’t yet dipped your toes into the waters of digital brand-protection, it can seem a daunting task.
Don’t worry though, Charlie has you covered.
Here are the three steps he recommends for protecting your brand online:
- Shore up your own domain portfolio
If your brand’s digital presence is haphazardly strewn across the internet map — such as, say, having multiple websites with different branding — users are going to have a hard time telling you from your deceitful doppelgängers.
Consolidate your online presence and curtail that confusion.
The internet is a big place — it’s a book no one ever finishes or a TV series that never ends. If you try to tackle every page and channel at the same time, you’re going to have a hard time tackling anything at all.
Instead, look to the channels in which you do the most business and the pages that most threaten it. Who and where are the unauthorized users making the biggest impact on your brand?
- Seek help
The vastness of the internet also means that it’s nearly impossible for most organizations to counter unauthorized sellers going alone — at least, not if they want to have any time or resources leftover to keep their organization running. Outsourcing this task makes everything so much easier.
But exercise caution when seeking a solution provider: There are many general solutions out there, but they aren’t going to be able to clean the entirety of the web. Instead, you want a solution provider — or several — specialized at tackling the channel(s) that have the biggest impact on your business.
Counterfeits may be as old as goods themselves, but so is finding ways to counter them.
With a little preparation and some help, you can stop worrying about the imposters and redirect that time and energy where it matters most: the success of your business.